The Mack Report

Warriors Take To The Road Saturday

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MCMensHoop1With exactly eight games remaining in the regular season as the calendar turns to February, the Merrimack men’s basketball team kicks off the home stretch with a huge road conference matchup at Assumption on Saturday afternoon.

The Warriors are coming off a seven-point home win over Pace on Tuesday, a victory that snipped a three-game losing skid for the Navy and Gold. Merrimack stands one game back of a two-way tie for the 10th and final playoff spot in the league standings.

Assumption has been one of the top teams in the league all season long, and heading into Saturday the Greyhounds occupy a tie for first place in the NE-10 standings.

The Assumption-Merrimack rivalry is the third-longest series that the Warriors have played in program history. Saturday’s contest marks the 94th battle between the two schools. The only two schools who Merrimack has played more times are Saint Anselm (102) and Stonehill (106).

Dating back to the 1966-67 season, Assumption holds a 55-38 advantage over Merrimack in the all-time series. The Warriors have won the last three meetings, however. Last year, Merrimack took down the Greyhounds, 70-64, on Jan. 28, 2012 at Hammel Court.

Most recently, Merrimack clawed back from an early second-half deficit  en route to snapping a three-game skid with an important Northeast-10 Conference victory against Pace at Hammel Court.

Freshman guard Gelvis Solano enjoyed one of his finest outings in the Navy and Gold, draining a career-high eight field goals while finishing 2-for-5 from long range to account for a game-high 23 points, while senior Mike Clifford chipped in 14 points and classmate Tyler Young hauled in a team-best 10 boards to lead the home side to its first win since a Jan. 15 home victory against Le Moyne.

In a game that featured 14 lead changes, Merrimack finished up shooting 28-for-64 (.438) from the floor, including a second-half clip of 16-for-31 (.516) that enabled them to erase that early deficit. Pace, meanwhile, finished 20-for-54 (.370) and 3-for-15 (.200) from downtown and 20-for-24 (.833) from the line.

Pace did not wait long to take control of the game early in the second half, taking a team-high six-point lead (37-31) with 18:23 remaining. But from there on out, the Warriors worked to tie it back up eventually on a basket from Berry-Rogers at the 13:01 mark, and moments later Kevin Regan nailed a key triple to spark a 15-0 run for the home side. Once behind, 41-35, the Warriors kept Pace without a basket for over six minutes, as the Warriors charged ahead, 50-41, on another layup from Regan with less than 10 minutes to go in the contest.

The Setters would not go quietly, storming back by means of their own run to tie the match and eventually go ahead by one, 58-57, with less than four minutes to go in regulation. But Merrimack again responded in a big way, using a 14-1 run to bury the visitors for good before the final buzzer sounded with the home side ahead by seven.

Picked to finish eighth in the NE-10 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Greyhounds have exceeded the early season prognostications and currently stand at 14-4 overall with an 11-3 mark in league play. Assumption got off to one of the hottest starts across the country after beginning the 2012-13 campaign undefeated in its first eight contests. Since mid-December, the team has gone 6-4.

The Greyhounds have lost back-to-back games just twice over the course of the season, and their 8-1 road record (compared to 4-2 at home) is easily one of the best marks in the conference. Assumption sits in a tie for first place with Saint Anselm in the league standings, although several teams have closed in on the Greyhounds heading into the final month of the regular season.

Four players average in double-figures for the Greyhounds, with senior forward Ronson Quick leading the way (14.4 ppg). The big man has shot an even 50 percent from the floor, the 11th-highest average in the league.

Behind him, Kevin Donahue ranks second in scoring (13.9) while his 37.4 minutes per game average is the most of any player in the NE-10. His 45 3-pointers are the sixth most in the conference, while his 76.8 percent conversion rate from the stripe ranks 14th. Sophomore Terrance Bobb-Jones (14.4) and senior Tim Beinert (12.1) round out the quartet of top scorers. The former ranks second in minutes per game (37.3) and ninth in steals (30), while the latter has posted the 14th-most blocks (17) and ranks inside the top-10 in free throw percentage (72.7).

As a team, the Greyhounds’ scoring defense has been an asset throughout the reason, as the opposition has mustered just 64.0 ppg against Assumption, good for the fourth-best scoring defense in the league. Assumption also ranks fourth in field goal percentage (45.4) and fourth in 3-point shooting (37.2), while the team’s +5.3 rebounding margin is best in the NE-10. Defensively, the Greyhounds rank second (40.2) and first (28.9) in opponents’ field goal and 3-point percentage, respectively.